5 Ways You Can Be a Better Listener
Listening is a skill that can help nourish relationships and bring two people closer together. However, many of us have forgotten how to sit still and focus long enough to really hear what someone is saying.
“In today’s world, the importance of effective listening has diminished greatly; so much so that many of us don’t realize we are poor listeners,” said Tony Smart in Simple Tips and Techniques to Become a Better Listener.
With some practice, you can become a better listener. Here’s how you can sharpen your skills.
1. Don’t focus so much on what you’ll say next
When you put most of your energy into thinking about what you’re going to say, you are not fully listening to the other person. While you’re mentally crafting your response, you may be missing key elements of your speaker’s statement. A good listener gives his undivided attention to whomever is speaking. Instead, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and absorb all that is being said to you.
“Listening affects us on more than one level. What we usually practice is a form of listening called passive listening. Through this method, your ears work as if on autopilot, taking in all the information in its surroundings, in case you choose to use any of it. This type of listening, on a superficial level, may be good for things such as catching the news running in the background, but has no place in effective communication with other people,” said Smart.
2. Don’t interrupt
Let the speaker fully express his or her thoughts. Speaking before your turn is rude and will just cause frustration. Be courteous and wait your turn.
“I sensed that most people were more interested in telling their stories than hearing mine. But then, to be honest, I was more interested in telling my stories than hearing theirs. I relished times when others tried to understand my stories. I came to value friendships where understanding worked both ways,” said James C. Peterson, L.P.C., D.Min., in Why Don’t We Listen Better? Communicating & Connecting in Relationships.
3. Eliminate distractions
Don’t play with your cell phone or check email while someone is speaking to you. Also refrain from answering your phone unless there is an emergency. Dividing your attention demonstrates a lack of interest in the conversation and gives off the impression that you don’t care about what is being said.
“You might think you can multitask, but having your smartphone in your hand is inviting distraction. You are using your ears and your eyes and your hand,” said Barb Jing in How to Become a Better Listener.
4. Don’t turn every conversation into a debate
You don’t have to be armed with a witty comeback for every statement that is made. Sometimes people just want to have a relaxed conversation where they can vent and talk about their day.
“So many of us are also likely to rebut or reject statements that contradict our own views. In fact, we tend to prepare to do verbal battle even before we understand what someone else has said. We will become good listeners only when we can acknowledge that we have a lot to learn,” said psychologists Paul J. Donoghue and Mary E. Siegel in Are You Really Listening? Keys to Successful Communication.
5. Welcome silence
At some point in the conversation there may be a lull or two. While it can be uncomfortable at times, don’t shy away from the occasional silent pause. Your speaker may be collecting her thoughts. Allow some time for the conversation to include periods for rest and reflection.